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Q&A with Extreme Reach’s Fred Cunha

For Fred Cunha, VP of Video Network & Support for Extreme Reach, the Super Bowl is far more than a one-day event. Because Extreme Reach delivers the majority of ads that run during the game, he spends the lead-up week onsite – this year at NBC — ensuring that each of those spots is ready to play perfectly on Super Bowl Sunday. Here he gives us a look inside advertising quality control and a few opinions on the ads.

Do you have a Super Bowl ritual?
For me, the Super Bowl starts in September when advertisers begin asking about specs and have all kinds of questions. Two weeks before the game emails start flying but the week before is when the action truly starts. On Monday morning, I fly to the network airing the game (it rotates between CBS, FOX and NBC) and spend all week at the network ensuring that all spots are delivered (some on game day) and that all issues are addressed right away. Most years, I end up working all day Saturday dealing with a whole range of problems that can arise – from audio to video to captioning issues. This year I will also spend Sunday at NBC since we have a spot being delivered even after the game begins.

Can you share an example of a dramatic, down-to-the-wire experience in a broadcast studio?
A few years ago, I was having dinner on Saturday night when I got a call that there was a problem with a last-minute spot. I went straight to the network to see what was going on. This was back in the day when spots were being played out baseband (as opposed to a file transfer) and there was a playout issue. I worked on it for hours and at 1am on Sunday, the issue was finally resolved. I was back at my hotel by 2am and the spot played perfectly during the game.

What are your thoughts on brands leaking their Super Bowl spots in advance of the game?
I’m not a big fan – I like the element of surprise. In fact, the only spots I watch are the ones that have issues (I watch those over and over again). I try to avoid all others and enjoy them while watching the game like a normal person.

What is one of your favorite Super Bowl ads and why?
I really liked the Audi prom spot from 2013. A teenage boy goes to the prom alone and his dad lets him borrow his car. He ends up parking in the principal’s spot and kissing the prom queen. The prom king sees this and walks over to the boy, visibly upset. The spot cuts to the teen driving the car with a black eye and the biggest smile on his face. I think most men can relate and have probably dreamed about something along those lines when they were in high school.

Do you think Super Bowl ads are the place and time to be adventurous and take risks, or is it best to stick with what has worked traditionally?
I think you can be a little adventurous and take some calculated risks but I think you also need to be careful – there’s a lot of money on the line and a misstep can be disastrous for a brand. A high-priced Super Bowl spot really has to connect with the audience.